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Marine Fire Systems

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Executive summary

Fire fighting in marine has become a serious issue to be dealt with in order to minimize on the causalities during such accidents and loss of valuable goods. The research work is about identifying suitable fire detection mechanisms and extinguishing forms which will help easily deal with any arising fires effectively. In the research smoke and heat detectors were used to provide precise reliable fire presence detection whose signals are send to control unit with aid of an alarm allowing quick fire response. The four main forms of fire extinguishing used in this research are: water fire extinguishers, gas fire extinguishers, powder foam extinguisher and the spray form extinguisher. a strength weakness , opportunity and threat analysis was carried out on the various fire fighting methods The various methods will be evaluate on their performance and conclusions made on where they are most suitable for application.

Literature review

Fire is a natural disaster that can occur at any place leading to loss of lives and goods worth millions. In the past years there has been a rise in fire accidents in ships transporting people and cargo in the marine. Fire detection is the process of identifying a fire incident as soon as it occurs for immediate action. Fire suppression would refer to the act of fighting a fire break down to curb it’s spreading and minimize damage to people or goods around. At the moment the ship industry has presented a new challenge as more large and complex ships are being designed and build. Many of the ships are made of several adventurous comfortable facilities which are mainly made of plastic material. This further poses a great threat to the fire attack on the same vessel. Some other improvements in the ship industry have included the introduction of light and composite materials that allow the modern vessels to move at a faster speed. It is form such trends that the international maritime authority allows the incorporation of both a performance based design and a legally prospective approach to the design. (Dembsey pp.137-159)

Gas fire fighting system

Marine ship fires have no doubt become a major threat to safety of cargo and people on board. In such cases there is no fire response unit to call as a result the crew are tasked with the responsibility of dealing with the fire by themselves. Traditionally many marines were using the carbon IV oxide system to fight fires in case of any outbreak. This used to work but had its limitation for incase accidental leakage of the gas had negative impact to the crew on board. Even thou a lot of security measures against fires have to be put in place, carbon iv oxide increases the overall weight and building costs of any ship vessel making it uneconomical to use. This has prompted the idea of inventing a system that can replace the heavy piping work by having a space generator for purposes of fighting fire accidents. (Fukuchi, N. and Hu, C. 2004).

The figure below is an illustration of a typical carbon IV oxide fire fighting unit that was being used on ships to fight fire out breaks while in the sea. It mainly composed of heavy piping network, pneumatic pressure system, remote controllers, actuator and pneumatic time delay mechanism (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

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Figure 1: typical layout of marine carbon IV oxide system

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Table 1: typical usage for cylinders and carbon IV oxide for a 500 m3 system.

From the table it can be noted that there is a significant difference in weight between using a clean agent and carbon dioxide for fire fighting. The reduction ratio of an 8:1 helps reduce the overall weight by around 40%. (Fukuchi, N. and Hu, C. 2004).

Disadvantages of using carbon IV oxide include: Compromising safety of crew members on board, unnecessary piping, weight on the ship, tedious in installation of the system, expensive due to the high number f component count for instance the nozzles and storage tanks (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Water fire fighting

They make good utilization of the water that is freely available in water bodies to be discharged to the flame thereby putting away the flame. This is archived by use of a piping system. There are several types of water fire extinguishing which include:

The wet type: where the pipes are continuously fixed to a water source from where they can easily transport water to the point of need during fire fighting. Automatic sprinklers which are heat sensitive are strategically positioned at various points in the ship which turn on as soon as flame heat is detected putting out the fire within the shortest time possible (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

The preaction type: in this type independent smoke and heat sensors are connected to the water pipes. After detecting presence of a fire a signal is send to the pressure valve which opens the outlet of water through the piping’s to the designated area of fire.

Deludge type ; in this case the type is used in high risk fires for instance oil tankers the sprinklers are pressure controlled . In case of a fire and the actuator signal is send all the sprinkler valves are opened releasing water into the piping at a very high pressure. It’s very dangerous type if the water is open by a false alarm

Powder fire fighting extinguishers

It involves use of powders such as sodium bicarbonate to put out the fire. The chemicals are specially made after undergoing sequence of chemical reactions leading to formation water repellant, non abrasive particles which are free flowing. They are stored in storage tanks and applied by use of special type of sprayers. Mainly used when dealing with fires in areas with a lot of flammable liquids and gases.

Use of chemical foam

It involves reacting of two materials to form a covering protective layer on the flame trapping the combustion gas and in the process extinguishing the fire. This reaction involves use of sodium bicarbonate as a stabilizer alongside with aluminium sulphate. When they react pressure difference is created which expels the agent forming a protective covering layer that inhibits further combustion process thereby putting out the flame (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Research and development

It is with the high rise of fire accidents that has prompted the investing in research and development to ensure modern fire detection and suppression systems are put in place. A fire and smoke simulator model has been developed to help visualize the spread of fire or smoke in a water vessel. However the modern marine ships have a lot of challenges when it comes to fire fighting because of the nature of their construction. The body is made water tight making it more expensive to install heavy complex ventilation systems that can easily eliminate smoke in case of fire outbreak for safety of the crew members. Using steel and aluminium has always exposed the ship to rapid fire spreading at the boundaries where the metals are joined. (Dembsey pp.137-159)

Some of the basic requirements regarding to the safety of ships are outlined as follows

  1. To minimize at all costs the occurrence of any fire or explosion

  2. To try and minimize risk of life loss during a fire accident

  3. To minimize the damage impact of the fire to the goods and the environment

  4. To fully control and suppress fire outbreak at the area of origin before it spreads.

  5. Provision of adequate and safe means of escape in case of a fire outbreak.

Materials that are used on building the ship or on board should also be in line with some of the sensitive properties for instance: non combustibility where the doors the decks ceiling of the ship should be made of a material which does not easily catch fire. The materials should be of low fire spreading characteristics as this will give enough time to suppress the fire before it spreads over a large uncontrollable area. Minimizing of production of toxic gases as much as possible as they can easily cause suffocation of the crew members. Ignitability of curtains and other textile materials used on board. (Fukuchi, N. and Hu, C. 2004).

Ship fires are very destructive especially when dealing with passenger ships as it becomes very difficult to fully evacuate all the people to a safe zone in case the fire gets out of control. Flammable cargo such as gasoline also poses a great threat to fire spreading in the ship. To help full deal with such situations it’s important that ships should have well equipped fire detection and suppressing systems (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Some of the examples of fire accidents include: 1980 a passenger carrying ferry Scandinavian Star’ had a fire break out and 159 lives were lost in the incident. In December 1994 ‘Achille Lauro’ cruiser ship had 1000 passengers evacuated during a fire out break at the coast of north east Africa claiming the lives of three people. The fire was reportedly caused by piston oil finding itself into the exhaust valve causing fire outbreak. (Dembsey pp.137-159)

History of marine Fire extinguishing systems

 Bruegman, R. 2009).(Early in the 1930 use of carbon IV oxide was the main method of fire extinguishing in marine ships. In 1961 halen agent was used to combat fires as it could fight fire in the engines without interfering with the structure of the various components as opposed to carbon IV oxide. But due to effect to ozone layer production was stopped in 1990. Some manufactures went back for carbon IV oxide while others opted to use other inert gases and chemical substances with minimum impact to the environment. Clean fire suppression agents were introduced into the system that had numerous advantages for instance less toxicity low weight and low chemical reactivity helping conserve environment as well as suppressing fire outbreaks

The idea of the new fire detection and suppression system is to incorporate modern technology smoke and heat detectors to allow faster precise fire detection and at the same time use clean agents for fire suppression process with minimum health and environmental impacts.

Project goals

  1. To identify the best fire fighting forms in marine fires

  2. To design a system for the marine fire systems

  3. To implement the marine fire system

  4. Evaluation of the performance of the marine fire system

Limitations to project

  1. Limited to the extent to which test fires can be put to establish the best performance of the fire system

  2. Availability of some of the required marine fire systems.

Project value to the company

The project is considered to e of great benefit to the company because at the end of the research the company will be able to identify the best fire detection and extinguishing technology for various types of ships which they do own. This will help them easily invest in such systems that will be of direct impact to the company’s daily operations ensuring their ships are well braced for marine fires in case they happen

Required resources

The following are the main components required

  • Smoke detectors

  • Heat detectors

  • Combined heat and smoke detectors

  • Carbon ii oxide powder filled storage tanks

  • Piping connections

  • Sprinklers

Roles and responsibilities

Project manager: general supervision of the whole staff working on the marine fire system project

Project team: This is the team which handles the actual work on the project in various areas

Quality assurance; ensure that during the implementation stage the project meets the standard agreed quality levels at end of each phase.

Monitoring and evaluation team: analysis of the performance of the system after implementation.

SWOT analysis


If the discussed technologies are fully incorporated and efficiently used in the marine industry there was several positives that were registered. For instance when using aerosols or clean agents instead of carbon IV oxide in fire fighting the cost of suppressing fire will have been reduced to significantly lower levels. There was minimum utilization of resources since there is no need of a lot of space for storage tanks to carbon IV oxide and unnecessary piping for conveying the carbon IV oxide gas. Lowering the resource utilization directly lowers the costs involved in fire detection and suppression. (Lua, J. 2009).

Another advantage of using such a system is that it provides use of current technology in the fire detection and suppressing. This provides more efficient means that are economical in terms of cost effectiveness. With the electrically controlled fire detecting system the support system is always readily available as a machine algorithm can be used to oversee any fire incidents from the time of detection to that when its successfully suppressed. This thereby helps to eliminate some of the human errors associated with physical detecting of fires before trying to suppress it.

Way From the time perspective it’s more efficient to detect and suppress fire using detectors for instance a smoke detector can quickly send an alarm before the fire really gets the better part of the ship under fire. This time saving is very important when it comes to fire incident as it can help save many lives which could be lost if the fire detection , was done at a late stage when the situation is out of hand.


The new more efficient fire detection and suppression technology if well implemented also has some setbacks which however do not undermine the performance compared to the old fire detection and suppression techniques. In terms of resources some of the effective detectors for smoke heat and smokeless flames are very expensive and not easily found. Life a ship will have to use such technology it will have to use more resources in terms of capital on the acquisition and installation of an electric operation fire detection unit that can easily raise an alarm for any fire threats to the ship (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

The cost for purchasing some of the control modules that are very effective in smoke and heat detection, the control boards for all the sensors come at a comparatively higher initial cost that gives this integrated mode of fire detection and suppression costly than the previous methods used.

Technical adaptability, if the marine industry is to come up with a fully electronic efficient fire detecting and suppressing system then it means a specialists is required to do the installation of the equipment and extra training to the staff members as they get used to the new system. From the support perspective it may not be effective to just rely on a computer customized algorithm monitoring the system as unique incidents may occur which had not been captured in the algorithm which will still require additional labor to oversee the system.


Technical adaptability: with introduction of a full electronic fire detector and suppressing unit in marine ships as it is in the navy vessels, it provides a source of employment for technical staff that will do the installation and also maintenance operations.

Provision of a market for the producers of smoke fire and heat detectors as well as clean agent for fire suppression. This will help improve production capacity of the products. The fire suppression equipment was available due to the increasing demand. (Lua, J. 2009).

Support systems was enhanced as the suppliers of the fire detecting and suppressing equipment will have the responsibility to offer customer support services of their products including services such as regular maintenance routine and servicing of some of the components being supplied.

Due to the new technology introduction need for employment of staff to be able to handle some of the new fire detection systems. This will lead to increased labor costs while some guy may end up losing their jobs as physical fire detectors on the ships.

The phasing out of the old system of fire suppression such as the doing away with the carbon IV oxide gas as the extinguishing agent. Producers of such product were losing their market to more clean fire suppressing agents (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Gap analysis

The improved technology system is more effective way of dealing with fire even though its full adoption will compromise the old methods of handling fire. Even though it comes at higher cost more technical skill required the advantages that come alongside such a system of end run cost effectiveness, saving on time due to instant fire and smoke detection, more effective in suppressing fire as well as maintaining the environment clean. (Lua, J. 2009).

Budget costs.





Smoke detectors

Protective wear

Horse reel

40 Per meter

Combined heat and smoke detectors

Carbon ii oxide powder filled storage tanks

Piping connections




Table 2: budget analysis

Timescales and milestones

The project is intended to take place between the months of December 2016 and March 10 the year 2017. The various activities and time frame are summarized in the table below

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Table 3: work schedule plan

Under the project manager supervision all the activities leading to various events such as electrical wiring was done and completed within the previously designed time duration to help avoid situations of scope creep. Relevant techniques are the ones to be strictly used for solving any upcoming problems during implementation phase as this will help to avoid cases of a situation going out of control because a poor method was used to solve a given technological problem without any consultations done (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Scope and scale of operation

The system is meant to be able to arrest different fire scenarios for instant the water extinguishing can be used in oil tankers which are highly exposed to rapid flames hence need high pressurized water to cope with it. The other types of ships within the company can be exposed to the gas, powder and use of foam as the fire extinguishing method depending on the designer’s preference.

Standards applying to the project

During the design several standard have been put to consideration ensuring the system fits to the required marine safety standards worldwide. Some of these standards include:

NFPA3: the recommended procedure used when commissioning fire protection systems with life saving mechanisms

NFPA10: the required standards for having a portable fire extinguishing system in the marine industry

NFPA 12A: the halon 1301 standards for marine fire extinguishing systems

Application of national and international legislation

The system has a fixed gas fire fighting system which is in accordance to the marine international fire safety legislation. The used extinguishers in this system are all scheduled in the national governments legislation act.

Project sustainability

The project is deemed as a sustainable investment as it will help effectively tackle the various types of fires that have been a major threat in the company’s ships of recent years taking away lives and leading lose of valuable goods. A quicker and effective response which is the design of the system makes the project a life time sustainable thing for the company.

Monitoring project quality

Quality assurance teams were conducting a quality control inspection during and at the end of each stage of the project implementation to ensure the quality of work is as agreed during the design stage. All these information was put in quality assurance written for future reference during the project closure stage (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Resource availability

The needed materials were fully provided and utilized with no under or overusing of the materials to ensure good quality work and at the same time economical from the cost effective point of view. This was predetermined by the actual costing of the materials during the planning stage. If they had been well budgeted and estimated then it was smooth operation during acquisition and usage of the materials. Lua, J. (2009).

Ensuring project outcomes are fit for purpose

Close monitoring of the project during implementation and evaluation stage at the end of each phase of implementation ensured that the system produced correct results which are relevant for the purpose it was meant for. For instance the newly installed detectors and fire suppressing equipment allowed the crew to be able to put out any fire incident as soon as it’s noticed there is a fire, thereby the outcomes from the project were fit for the intended purpose.

Application of operational business data

From the monitoring and evaluation stage during the project implementation some results were analyzed. These results helped in determining the average rate of response to a fire. Such type of data was very useful to the ship company as they could be able to evaluate the degree of risk their ships will be exposed to when transporting cargo or people. The data collected was also a boost to the supplier of the material as it boosted his trust to the customer who was willing to have him as their permanent equipment supplier to the company.

Application of ethics in the project

Ethics in project management can be described as what ought to be. The company by investing in this project has set a benchmark for other ship owning companies on how marine fire systems can be effectively handled with current technology. The success of the project paved way for this company to be the leader of other companies in the quest to minimize the effects of marine fires both on goods and people lives. This project will have with no doubt a lasting positive impact to the marine transport and facilitate further transition of the marine fire fighting systems to a more advanced level with the help of ever advancing technology.


Gant t chart

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Conceptualization of the event:

This stage involves the screening of the marine fire systems idea checking if it’s a feasible idea to venture into. Will the idea being considered add any value to the currents system of the ships, is it an economical thing to do considering all the costs that will be involved this are some of the questions to be answered in this stage (Bruegman, R. 2009). 

Layout logistics

The ideas after screening stage are the further developed into the logistics phase where the designer looked on the economics of scale of the proposed project. Are funds available? The transportation logistics of the materials? How readily available are the raw materials? What duration will the project take before full commissioning?

Selection of the vendor

In this stage several vendors are requested to submit their quotations for the costs for supplying various materials. The most reasonable costing wins the tender of supplying the materials required for the project implementation phase. The costs should not be too high or too low (Bruegman, R. 2009). 


Ordering of materials from the chosen vendor writing of the cheque and their processing to allow acquisition of materials and their transportation to the construction site. The process will take a maximum duration of five working days

Material acquisition

Physical transportation and delivery of the equipment necessary for the installation of the new system are delivered to the site ready for the next phase which is the actual equipment installation.

Equipment installation

The various equipment useful in the fire marine system are installed and put in place. This is the main part of the project. Some of the equipment to be used in the project is as follows

Control modules

Thirds is the backbone of the system acting as the central point controlling the whole process of detection of a fire going on of the alarms and fire suppressing responses. They are either controlled manually or by a specialized platform management system. Some of the parameters that can be configured include: the total number of fire and smoke detectors, sensor sensitivity, the alarm response and its rise. The total number of operator interface that was used in the system. The input and output functionality which should be digital in nature alongside an explanatory text or communication code which should be assigned to each operator. (Dembsey pp.137-159)

A control panel CM4.3 module. Is one of the largest color detectors that come with the best European standard for maximum fire and smoke detection? The module can be delivered single or mounted on the door.

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Figure 2: Control module CM 4.3

Control module MX NA it’s mounted on a rail and can be easily intergraded to any system. Offers similar purpose functionality as the large control panel but it lacks the in build display unit. Best suited for functions that are embedded. (Fukuchi, N. and Hu, C. 2004).

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Figure 3: control module MX NA

Repeater module for instance: Repeater panel CTRL-RPT-4.3-NA it’s used to give the current status of the system. It’s connected to the central system via Ethernet allowing remote control

Interface modules this provides an interface section to more than 200 fire detectors in the system. It makes it easier to be able to monitor all the detectors installed in the ship within a very short period of time.

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Figure 4: repeater CTRL-RPT-4.3-NA

Charger module; its incorporated with a backup power system that ensures there is still fire or smoke detection in the vessel and necessary fire suppression even without power. This has been archived by its in build intelligent battery charger for the system.

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Figure 5: charger module

Smoke detector a device designed to give early warning in presence of smoke in the designated area of protection or zone. At the same time the detector should be able to reject the false alarms that may arise by aid of an optical chamber

University Affiliation 9Figure 6: smoke detector E-V-P-NA type

Smoke and heat detector: It offers detection to any presence of smoke or unexpected heat rise in the protected area. This is archived by the presence of an optical chamber and heat sensing element. The type of detector used should be able to identify and reject false alarms.

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Figure 7: dual smoke and heat detector EV-PH-NA

Infrared flame detector: it’s a triple frequency detector using current technology. It’s meant to detect the fires that are smokeless for instance combustible liquids and gases. It uses intelligent signal processing ability and customized algorithms which interpret any flames in the area and send signals to the main control unit for necessary safety action. It’s suited in the harsh environments for instance in the ship engines. (Dembsey pp.130-159)

Manual call point it’s a mechanical device that allows the crew to alert the other crew members of a fire outbreak. It serves as the necessary call point which gives ingression services. An LED at the front of the call serves as an indication of a fire accident.

University Affiliation 11Figure 8: manual call point sample

Sample diagram for the fire detection connection of the marine fire system.

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Figure 9: Standard fire detection connection of the marine fire system

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Figure 10: Sample of gas cylinder connected to the electronic panel.

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Figure 11: fire extinguishing cylinders in the fire fighting room

Monitoring and evaluation

After full construction and assembly of various design components the fire detecting and suppressing system was put under several drills and test runs to try and see how it performs at different fire scenarios and the results obtained put in report form.

Project closure

All the systems are confirmed to be in place. If the system performance is as expected final bit of payment is done and the contract signing off is done, the system is officially handed to the company.

Critical path

It enabled the establishment of the least time needed to fully complete the project covering all the important activities in the design the critical path was of 108 days as it was the shortest time taken to complete all the activities. The path was reduced by ensuring some of the less necessary activities had an early finish time than the maximum finish time. This was archived by reducing the time used to do certain activities compared initial time that had been set aside for the event to occur.

Project life cycle

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Figure 12: project life cycle

Problem definition

The first stage of the cycle where the work requirements for the whole marine fire system installation and operation. The various types of resources that will be utilized are identified in this stage. The other important element that was done in this stage was to establish the amount of work needed and what quality is expected at the end of the project. The main goals of the project are clearly defined, what specifications are needed? The various roles and responsibilities of the project team members are outlined.

Project planning.

The work schedule for various activities in the design and implementation the marine fire system is put in place. Budget for the required material and equipment is also prepared in this stage. The resources required to ensure the project was a success is put to consideration, the risks associated with the project implementation were also outlined and measures to counter them put in place. Staff member that will oversee and take part in the project are also put in place on how to recruit.

Project execution

The status reports for the various stages of project implementation are usually analyzed conforming to the required quality as per the planning. Any changes that need to be done to allow successful completion on the design are made through the correct communication channels. Fully detailed reports of work completed against the plan are done which are submitted to the project manager.

Project delivery

The users of the fire fighting system are trained on how to suppress the fire with the system. All important documents are transferred from the contractor to the management. Reallocation of resources is done some of which is incorporated into the industry while others becomes a source o f beneficiary to the employees. The staff in the project cycle is relocated to other new responsibilities. The main lessons that were learned during the project are put in place to allow future reference when handling such a problem with the help of project recommendations.


  1. Cover page

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Figure 13: log books cover page

  1. Filling details pages

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Figure 14: log books inside pages

  1. back page

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Figure 14: log books back page


  • Atomization of the whole system from point of fire detection to suppressing of the fire

This will help minimize on human causalities during any fire accident

  • Encourage use of high technology LED detectors for quick and precise fire detection giving ample to time to arrest the fire before spreading


At the end of the project the new design had been put in place evaluated and found to be a better option which other people should adopt for marine fire safety. From the project it was evident that with the new system in place there is quicker and uniform fire response time to the fires allowing better time to combat it. The new system can reduce the response time by averagely 40 percent which is a very good value as that can mean saving a lot more lives and goods. More precise and high tech equipment in fire detection will give a better efficient fire detection and suppression system.


  1. Bruegman, R. (2009). Fire administration I. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

  2. Fukuchi, N. and Hu, C. (2004). A pseudo field model approach to simulate compartment-fire phenomena for marine fire safety design. Journal of Marine Science and Technology, 8(4), pp.177-184.

  3. Grenier, A., Dembsey, N. and Barnett, J. (1998). Fire characteristics of cored composite materials for marine use. Fire Safety Journal, 30(2), pp.137-159

  4. Lua, J. (2009). Hybrid Progressive Damage Prediction Model for Loaded Marine Sandwich Composite Structures Subjected to a Fire. Fire Technology, 47(4), pp.851-885.

  5.  Lua, J. (2009). Hybrid Progressive Damage Prediction Model for Loaded Marine Sandwich Composite Structures Subjected to a Fire. Fire Technology, 47(4), pp.851-885.

  6.  Smith, R. (1994). Performance parameters of fire detection systems. Fire Technology, 30(3), pp.326-33